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Same-sex marriage in Cuba: A bone of contention

Issue has sparked rare public debate

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The Catholic Church is campaigning against same-sex marriage, though more discretely. Siervas de Jesús in Santa Clara, Cuba, has a mural that highlights opposition to equal marriage. (Photo by Carlos Alejandro Rodríguez Martínez/Tremenda Nota)

Editor’s note: Tremenda Nota is an independent e-zine in Cuba that covers the country’s LGBTI community and other minority groups. Tremenda Nota is a media partner of the Washington Blade.

This article was originally published on Tremenda Nota’s website in Spanish.

SANTA CLARA, Cuba — A few weeks before the proposed changes to the concept of marriage were shared it was already a hot topic on the street and social networks.

While five Christian denominations have campaigned in favor of the “original design for the family, just as God created it,” the LGBTI+ population, along with many activists, artists and the general population, have defended the original Cuban design for the family, however it is made up.

Mariela Castro Espín, director of the Cuban National Center for Sex Education, told Parliament that “marriage is the possibility to guarantee other opportunities and rights that have been denied to people because of their sexual orientation.”

However, modifying the concept of marriage has caused more of a stir on the streets than in parliament itself. In squares, at get-togethers and even in churches, people are approving or condemning Article 68, which approves “the union voluntarily agreed upon, between two people with legal ability to do so, for the purpose of making a life together.”

Jovann Silva Delgado, a Cuban lawyer living in the United States, believes that the article’s text “leaves no room for doubt regarding the legislator’s intention to open up the possibility that two people of the same sex can marry.”

Nonetheless, Silva Delgado is concerned that Cubans are only discussing Article 68, and when it is put to a referendum they will forget other foundations that are essential for exercising democracy.

A few weeks ago, María Jorge López, coordinator of the lesbian group Labrys in Santa Clara, called on El Mejunje’s (a cultural space and mecca for marginalized people) public to vote in favor of the new constitution. María is a Cuban Communist Party militant and agrees with the draft constitution, which is currently under public consultation.

Since the public debates started on Aug. 13, the national news channel has only broadcast opinions against equal marriage. So far, any debate on the rest of the constitution has been limited to minor additions and, above all, approval. No one is questioning the strict guidelines laid down in the draft document governing the Cuban Communist Party. The irrevocable character of the social, economic and political systems in the country seem to be untouchable issues.

Who is more original?

Last May the Cuban Evangelical League, the Baptist Convention of Western Cuba, the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba, as well as the Cuban Methodist Church and the Evangelical Assembly of God Church announced that they were in favor of the “original design for the family.” They have held several fasts and protests to express their disapproval of the possible change to the supreme law.  

Meanwhile activists campaigned, mainly on social media, to support the change in the new constitution. They substituted the churches’ poster with one defending the “Cuban design” of a “very original family,” that is not limited to the Father + Mother + Baby formula.

Activists and LGBTI+ people have demanded the right to equal marriage in Cuba for years. (Photo by Yariel Valdés González/Tremenda Nota)

When questioned, Yoan Pérez de Ordaz, a youth leader at Santa Clara Trinity Baptist Church, defended his position with the opinion that, “the country’s future should be for everyone.”

“Basically, the evangelists’ position is that same-sex marriage legislation should not exist. However, I believe that the letter [from the five Christian denominations] that is circulating does not open dialogue,” says the devout Christian.

Pérez de Ordaz understands, however, that the system has historically discriminated against Christians and homosexuals. Some “went to the UMAP [agricultural labor camps] together, but at the moment the law is only favoring some. Our worldview won’t be reflected by the constitution or in the Family Code. Therefore, the document won’t be inclusive: it excludes me and many others.”

While several churches oppose changing the concept of marriage, in Havana several activists have organized public interventions and photography sessions of symbolic weddings in front of Revolution Square and other emblematic spots in the capital.

Many of El Mejunje’s public believe that marriage should not be considered the end goal.
Blancuchini, a famous transformista from Santa Clara, believes that LGBTI+ people also need respect from the police and that trans people should be allowed to wear feminine clothing at places of work or education.

“Everyone wants to get married here, one day I’ll meet my other half,” says Zuleika, another trans girl in Santa Clara, who also wants something more: “a law that allows me to put my name on an identity card.” Others, like Javier Lorenzo Olivera, a transformista from Santa Clara, hope that lesbian and gay couples will be allowed to adopt soon.

LGBTI+ people are also demanding that their right to inherit, among others, is recognized. Francisco Águila Medina, a retired philosophy professor, observes that the potential change in the law “will bring down the barriers for going to a hotel or a cabaret where you have to enter as a couple. I think even school and university curricula will change.”

Visual artist and designer Roberto Ramos Mori from Havana represents another group of activists who recognize the importance of same-sex marriage but doubt its ability to achieve real change. “I’m not against marriage. I’m against the institution of marriage that regulates the way that you build your family and that marriage is what gives you social guarantees. The state should guarantee the full development of human sexuality, without caring about people’s living arrangements,” Ramos Mori told Tremenda Nota.

Despite the different opinions, the majority of the LGBTI+ population thinks that the Constitution is the only way that they can be recognized and respected by society for the first time. Ramos Mori believes: “When we can be a part of it and really participate, irrespective of my sexual orientation or gender identity, I will be able to consider other rights.”

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Bars & Parties

Beyonce vs. Rihanna dance party

Music provided by DJ Just Different at Union Stage

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R² Productions LLC and Union Stage are teaming up to host  R² Productions’ inaugural “MEGA Dance Party” on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. at Union Stage at The Wharf.

The event will be a night full of dancing to music by pop stars Beyonce and Rihanna. DJ Just Different will be performing at the event. 

General Admission tickets cost $25 and Premier Plus tickets cost $35. For more information about ticket purchases, visit Union Stage’s website.

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Miscellaneous

The evolution of the open house

The more sophisticated the advertising, the more the events flourished

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From car giveaways in the 1950s to today’s QR codes and virtual events, agents have used diverse strategies to draw buyers to open houses.

In the early 20th century, there were no exclusive agreements between a seller and a real estate agent. Any broker who knew of someone wanting to sell could participate in an “open listing” by planting his sign in the yard of that person and competing with agents from other brokerages who did the same. To the victor who obtained a buyer went the spoils of commission.

The rules began to change in 1919, when being a real estate broker now required a license. An agent might handle only one property at a time exclusively, but an “open for inspection” period could be used to introduce a model home or new community to the buying population. 

According to the National Association of Realtors, Dallas homebuilder, Howdy Howard, hosted one of the most successful open houses of all time in the 1950s. During the first 12 days of the event, an estimated 100,000 people attended, drawn by free sodas and the ultimate prize for the buyer – a new Cadillac.

Soon, brokers began hiring additional agents who could handle multiple properties. Unlike Howard’s marathon open house, agents would now host them for a few hours at a time, usually on a Sunday, to whet the appetite of the buyer pool. 

Classified advertisements with a description of a property would be placed in a local newspaper and potential buyers would review them with their morning coffee to decide which houses to visit later in the day. 

Marketing in newspapers went from a few lines of black and white text to a photo of a home’s exterior, to a multi-page spread that included both photos of houses and the agents who represented them.

The more sophisticated the advertising became, the more the open house flourished as a marketing tool, not only for the home itself, but also for the agent and the brokerage. It allowed agents to prospect for buyers for that home and others, and converse with neighbors who might want to sell their homes as well. 

Soon, the sign-in sheet was born, used by the agent to capture the contact information of a potential client or customer and to let the seller know who had visited his home. While sign-in sheets or cards are still used, some agents have gravitated to electronic applications, using a tablet computer instead of paper for the same purpose.

Fast forward to the early 2000s in D.C., when open houses became the primary source of showing property. An agent would enter a property into the multiple listing service (MLS) on a Thursday, entertain no showings until Saturday, host an open house on Sunday afternoon, and call for offers either Sunday night or Monday. The open house allowed agents to send their buyers rather than accompany them and serve multiple clients at once.  

The delayed showing day strategy referenced above has since been supplanted by the MLS’s Coming Soon status. Agents can now email or text links to upcoming properties to their clients in advance of showing availability and the clients can view photos, read property descriptions and disclosures, and schedule future visits accordingly.

Enter COVID-19. Due to the proliferation of the virus and the subsequent lockdown, the real estate world had to accommodate new public health requirements. 

One of the first things to go was the open house. Even agent showings were constrained, with visitors limited to an agent plus two people and additional requirements for wearing masks and disposable shoe covers and gloves. 

Overlapping appointments were not allowed, showings were limited to 15 to 30 minutes, and bottles of hand sanitizer sprung up on kitchen counters everywhere.

Ultimately, technology and ingenuity provided new marketing avenues for agents that included 3-D virtual open houses, Facetime and Duo viewings, videos, property websites and QR codes. Many of these marketing techniques remain, even though traditional open houses are coming back post-lockdown.

But are they really necessary? Certainly not for all types of properties. 

I believe the days of using a public open house to procure a buyer are limited. Agent security has become a concern and the desire for in-person viewings during a specific day or time has waned. 

On the other hand, Internet marketing and social media have a much wider reach, so much so that some people now feel comfortable buying a home – probably the most expensive item they will ever purchase – without even stepping into it until after closing.

After all, if we can work in sweatpants or pajamas while Zooming corporate meetings, how can naked virtual reality house hunting be far behind?

Valerie M. Blake is a licensed Associate Broker in D.C., Maryland, and Virginia with RLAH Real Estate. Call or text her at 202-246-8602, email her via DCHomeQuest.com, or follow her on Facebook at TheRealst8ofAffairs.

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